This post looks at the paper “Do people learn option or strategy routines in multi-attribute decisions? The answer depends on subtle factors” authored by Arndt Bröder, Andreas Glöckner, Tilmann Betsch, Daniela Link, and Florence Ettlin (Acta Psychologica 143 (2013) 200–209). The researchers note that in their classic book on Einstellung effects, Luchins and Luchins (1959) demonstrated the robustness of maladaptive routinization in problem solving strategies. A specific strategy that had been successful in several trials was still used after changes in the environment that rendered simpler solutions available. Routinization even prevented many participants from finding simple solutions to new problems in which the routinized strategy could not be used. Hence, routinization may be beneficial in a stable task environment, but it may become detrimental in a changing world. It has been demonstrated that even experts fall prey to Einstellung effects, although their magnitude reduces for top-experts.
This post looks at a little history and a little psychology that make clear that humans do not even try to maximize expected utility in certain circumstances. If this post were to fit in logically it should have been before prospect theory. Prospect theory manages to internalize these little foibles. The bottom line is that in certain circumstances we have plenty of brain power, but we still do not want to maximize expected utility (at least as normally measured). I have taken the information that follows largely from the materials prepared by John Miyamoto for his class Psychology 466 at the University of Washington.
Customs Officer Expertise
The first paper is “Expert intuitions: How to model the decision strategies of airport customs officers?” authored by Thorsten Pachur and Gianmarco Marinello. They asked Swiss airport customs officers in Zurich and Bern and a novice control group to decide which passengers (described on several cue dimensions) they would submit to a search. Additionally, participants estimated the validities of the different cues. Then the researchers modeled the decisions using compensatory strategies, which integrate many cues, and a non-compensatory heuristic, which relies on one-reason decision making. Their analysis of the decisions of airport customs officers suggests that experts prefer simple decision strategies that rely on few cues and go without integration, whereas novices tend to use compensatory strategies that integrate multiple cues. Among the compensatory strategies, weighted-additive provided the worst account of participants’ decisions. Pachur specifically notes that this contradicts the claim that much of people’s decision making is based on an automatic weighted integration process as postulated by Glöckner & Betsch.
The title of this post is probably stretching, but according to the deliberation without attention (DWA) hypothesis, people facing a difficult choice will make a better decision after a period of distraction than after an equally long period of conscious deliberation, an effect referred to as the unconscious thought advantage (UTA). The status of the DWA hypothesis is controversial, as many studies have tried but failed to replicate the UTA. This post looks at a paper, “The unconscious thought advantage: Further replication failures from a search for confirmatory evidence,” written by Mark Nieuwenstein and Hedderik van Rijn that appeared in Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 7, No. 6, November 2012, pp. 779–798.
This post discusses a paper entitled: “Rational decision making: balancing RUN and JUMP modes of analysis,” that appeared in Mind Soc (2012) 11:69–80. It was written by Tilmann Betsch and Carsten Held. I enjoy Tilmann Betsch’s work. This paper combines several ideas in an understandable form. Betsch along with Andreas Glockner have done much to promote the ability of intuition (Intuition in J/DM), but this paper defines rationality as the appropriate balance between the RUN and JUMP modes of analysis.